A Hallucinogenic Tea, Laced with Controversy: Ayahuasca in the Amazon and the United States

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Overview

One country's sacrament is another's illicit drug, as officials in South America and the United States are well aware. For centuries, a hallucinogenic tea made from a giant vine native to the Amazonian rainforest has been taken as a religious sacrament across several cultures in South America. Many spiritual leaders, shamans, and their followers consider the tea and its main component - ayahuasca - to be both enlightening and healing. In fact, ayahuasca (pronounced a-ja-was-ka) loosely translated means spirit vine. In this book, de Rios and Rumrrill take us inside the history and realm of, as well as the raging arguments about, the substance that seems a sacrament to some and a scourge to others. Their book includes text from the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances and interviews with shamans in the Amazon.

One country's sacrament is another's illicit drug, as officials in South America and the United States are well aware. For centuries, a hallucinogenic tea made from a giant vine native to the Amazonian rainforest has been taken as a religious sacrament across several cultures in South America. Many spiritual leaders, shamans, and their followers consider the tea and its main component - ayahuasca - to be both enlightening and healing. In fact, ayahuasca (pronounced a-ja-was-ka) loosely translated means spirit vine. Ayahuasca has moved into the United States, causing legal battles in the Supreme Court and rulings from the United Nations. Some U.S. church groups are using the hallucinogen in their ceremonies and have fought for government approval to do so. The sacrament has also drawn American drug tourists to South America to partake, say authors de Rios and Rumrrill. But they warn that these tourists are being put at risk by charlatans who are not true shamans or religious figures, just profiteers.

In this book, de Rios and Rumrrill take us inside the history and realm of, as well as the raging arguments about, the substance that seems a sacrament to some and a scourge to others. Opponents fight its use even as U.S. scientists and psychologists continue investigations of whether ayahuasca has healing properties that might be put to conventional use for physical and mental health. This book includes text from the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances and interviews with shamans in the Amazon.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Overall, I recommend this book to anyone interested in Cultural Anthropology, Shamanism, Amazonin Influences, Religions."

-

www.encouraginghealth.com

"This book does far more than live up to its strange title. Anthropologist Rios (Univ. of California, Irvine) joins Peruvian

journalist Rumrrill in revealing a peculiar, engrossing saga of recent changes and controversies centered around tea

derived from the hallucinogenic vine ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi). […] Summing Up: Highly recommended."

-

Choice

"This book represents an important addition to the current discussion about ways to use ayahuasca (and other drugs) to maximize the potential for benefit and minimize the possibility of harm. It is not a book for people who know little about ayahuasca, but one that should be read by those who wish to gain a fuller understanding of the perils and promise of contemporary ayahuasca use. While aficionados may take issue with some of the points raised by the authors, this does not diminish their importance. Anthropological research has shown that almost any psychoactive substance can be used for culturally constructive and integrative purposes if such use occurs in a socially sanctioned and culturally accepted context. In the past, such contexts have typically been provided by religions. While postmodern individuals might be justifiable skeptical of these religions, they would do well to understand the deeper nature of rituals and the ways they help to constructively contextualize both their participants' experiences and the things they learn from these experiences. Herein lies what is perhaps the most important message of this timely book."

-

Anthropology of Consciousness

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780313345425
  • Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/30/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

MARLENE DOBKIN DE RIOS is a medical anthropologist who has conducted fieldwork in the Peruvian Amazon and the coast on plant hallucinogens and healing. She is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of California, Irvine, and Professor Emerita of Anthropology at California State University, Fullerton. De Rios has spearheaded research on the plant hallucinogen, ayahuasca in Peru, Brazil, and the United States. The author of six books and several hundred articles on hallucinogens and culture, she resides in Southern California.

ROGER RUMRRILL is a well-known Peruvian journalist and author of 25 books. He is a recognized expert on Amazon themes, including narco-trafficking, biological wealth of the Amazon, and social and cultural issues of indigenous peoples in Peru and other regions of Latin America.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Introduction 1

Ch. 2 Native Use of Ayahuasca 5

Ch. 3 Drug Tourism 69

Ch. 4 The New Shamans 87

Ch. 5 The Uniao do Vegetal and the U.S. Supreme Court 113

Ch. 6 Globalization and the Future of Ayahuasca 133

Endnotes 149

Glossary 153

References 155

Index 161

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